We're in the middle of the admission cycle again. I've been doing this for 25 years and I believe my most important job is to help students and parents navigate the admission and financial aid process.

Proof. https://twitter.com/ksgiannino/status/273415198793158656

We are hosting a live admission webinar tonight, 8 PM EST. If I don't get to your question here, I'll bring it with me tonight.

Edit #1: Wow, the front page of reddit--thank you! Thanks for all of the great questions--we tried to answer some of on the live webinar. Need to go read some applications! I'll check back tomorrow and answer questions that we don't get to tonight.

Edit #2: Took a break from reading applications and see a lot of conversation and wanted to address the top question. Thank you for such a thoughtful discussion. I'll be sure to answer more questions as I have time.

Edit #3: Be back tomorrow. Thanks for the great questions, and the great answers, too. We tried to answer some them last night. I'll keep answering them between reading applications.

Final edit: the video where we address more of your answers.

Comments: 1486 • Responses: 22  • Date: 

johnsbury1278 karma

Do you think there's an education bubble similar to the housing bubble that burst in 08? It seems like a huge percentage of people are receiving a college education at a very high financial burden. Higher than their earning potential. People are given loans regardless of aptitude, or the ability to earn enough income in their chosen fields to service these loans. It seems like this has all become a feeding frenzy being conducted in the same style as the real estate industry prior to the collapse.

Karen_Giannino229 karma

Thanks for raising such an important topic.

At Colgate, we strive to give smart, driven students a complete education so they can go onto great careers. We work to keep student loan debt as low as possible. This year, students graduated with an average debt of just over $16K-- total. We do this from money raised in the recent fundraising campaign – $141.5 million toward financial aid.

We don't gap students--we meet 100% of their demonstrated need. We are not need blind in our admission process--we are getting closer to that but believe it is better to meet a student's full need and not leave a gap that then requires the student to take on an unreasonable amount of private loan debt. This is the circumstance that many people find themselves in. It's really important to dig deep into the aid policies of each school you are looking at. That's the consumer's responsibility.

We want to turn intelligent/driven students into adults that can contribute to society. Colgate grads get jobs and get into grad school. Our one-year-out data shows that 72.3% are employed full time, 18% in grad school, 5% in transition, 2.6% in fellowships or internships, and 1.2% volunteering. Less than 1% are "other."

Also, a four-year college experience may not be the right fit for everyone. That's up to the student to decide. We're here to help explain what Colgate has to offer, and, when I can, offer some insight into highly selective admission and aid practices.

Here's one more thing: all colleges are now required by law to have a financial aid calculator on their websites. Plug in your info, and you will see how that college would package your financial aid. Part of your responsibility as a student looking at colleges is to determine what you can afford and assess how each college will meet your need.

Donitsu489 karma

What would I need to do to get a free ride to Colgate? I've been brushing my teeth with you guys for years and I think you should give back.

Karen_Giannino237 karma

Just get on the bus.

Seriously, apply for financial aid. At Colgate, we meet 100% of demonstrated financial need, and this year the average award we gave was more than $41K. This brochure is really helpful.

JackNO7D169 karma

Hi Karen! I'm a twenty five year old in the process of finishing up an associates at a small community college in Virginia. What are the acceptance rates for late bloomers such as myself? What would make someone like myself stand out amongst all of the high achieving seventeen year olds in the admission process?

Karen_Giannino92 karma

It's important to connect with the admission office--call the school(s) you are interested in. Admission counselors are there to help--really.

ccowles152 karma

Does Gary Ross still handwrite notes on every accepted student's application essay?

Karen_Giannino140 karma


jatorres115 karma

Would you rather fight one horse-sized duck, or 100 duck-sized horses?

Karen_Giannino365 karma

100 duck-sized horses, definitely. Especially on the hills at Colgate.

BTW, we have a great equestrian club.

john_nyc77 karma

As a father to a 3 year old and one on the way in 8 weeks I am already worried about paying for college. Private colleges are estimated to cost about $320,000 for 4 years when my son turns 18. Colgate is already $240,000 for 4 years so that $320 is pretty much going to happen.

How do you tell parents that have a child that academically deserves to go to a top tier university, but in no way would be able to afford it without going into a lot of debt? At what point do you tell a parent that depending on the career path your child has planned going to an expensive private college just doesn't make sense financially?

Does Colgate or other private colleges look down or not care if a student spends two years at a community or junior college taking core curriculum classes before coming to a private school to attack their major?

As a person closely dealing with parent and students I am just interested on your take when it comes to the financial aspect of going to college these days.


Karen_Giannino66 karma

First of all, congrats on your second child.

We don't look down on community college at all. Do some research on transfer admission at different schools. How many transfers does the college take each year? Is financial aid available?

Colgate's financial aid policy is straightforward: we meet 100% of student's demonstrated need and we do it without strapping people with a lot of debt (avg debt burden is about $16K total).

See this financial aid brochure

john_nyc24 karma

Thanks Karen. Really appreciate the link. When my sister and I were in college at the same time my parents didn't qualify for any aid so it did get expensive for my folks, but we did graduate debt free which was a huge deal. I just paid my wife's student loan off last year (15 years after she began paying it) and would hate to have my children in that position when they are just starting out.

Karen_Giannino19 karma

We understand the issues facing students and their families right now and strive to keep the total debt to a minimum. In fact, Colgate students on aid are graduating right now with about $16K debt TOTAL.

c_tsmith38 karma

What makes one student stand out from another? Is GPA more important than community service or leadership?

Karen_Giannino64 karma

Honestly, it's the sincerity of what you do that makes you stand out. Colleges are looking for good citizens as well as good students, so yes, community service and leadership--your contributions and how you have grown from what you've done--are a big part of your application. Won't take the place of good grades, though :)

brooklynite35 karma

Back when I was graduating, I applied to 12 schools and chose GWU for early admission. I have two questions:

  1. Can you publicly debunk any notion that there's a legal obligation to attend a school when you're admitted early decision?
  2. The only school of 12 I was not admitted to was American University, also located in DC. I was never given a real good reason for the denial and always surmised it was because DC schools shared admissions lists. Can you confirm this or a similar practice? (FWIW, other schools I was admitted to include PSU honors, Carnegie Mellon, Mulhenberg, and F&M so I don't think it was credentials).

Signed, Bitter 30 year old

ETA: Question 1 results from the fact that I did not attend GW, despite their threats to the contrary.

Karen_Giannino66 karma

Early Decision is a binding agreement between you and the college. If your financial aid isn't enough to make it work, then you will be let out of the agreement. However, if a student tries to game the system (I know that's not what you are implying here), it doesn't work. There's a common courtesy among colleges and we would not admit a student who had committed to another institution ED. Plus, you must withdraw other applications if admitted ED somewhere.

No, the schools you applied to would not have shared lists.

Thurilok34 karma

My son is in his junior year of high school. When is it appropriate for him to start contacting colleges he's interested in?

Karen_Giannino57 karma

Junior year is the perfect time to start the college search. A few things: find the regional rep for each college on their websites and make contact. Admission officers--we love to strike up conversations with students interested in our schools. If you have specific questions, this is the perfect time to engage us. Email, call, jump in on an online chat...whatever medium works for you. In the spring, attend a college fair in your area and go with questions that will help you learn what makes each college unique. Then in the fall, many colleges will visit your son's high school--make sure to get a list from the guidance office. It couldn't be easier--we come right to your school!

honkytonks32 karma

What if any are the options available for an adult returning to school to complete a degree? Specifically one who finds himself returning after nearly twenty years?

Karen_Giannino33 karma

The first thing I would do is visit a local college. Make an appointment with an admission officer--ask if there is someone who oversees adult students. Don't be afraid to ask any question at all--they've heard everything. Ask for some names of other adult/returning students. They'll be full of advice.

Shakkes31 karma

What are your thoughts on sites such as coursera.org that offer great on-line classes, for free? Do you feel free on-line education threatens the industry? Maybe not now, but down the road as they become more popular and potentially more acceptable.

Karen_Giannino25 karma

This is something that everyone is talking about.

Read what our president says about the internet and the future of Colgate

steinertimer30 karma

In admissions at a school here in Texas. Hope you're surviving reading season.

Karen_Giannino24 karma

thanks--you, too!

jackhammer_abortion28 karma

How forgiving are colleges of a poor grade in freshman year of highschool?

Karen_Giannino49 karma

Maybe. What you do with a bad situation is what counts. Colleges look for upward trends.

FapNowPayLater22 karma

Given the stark imbalance between pay for administration vs. Educators, how can any college claim to have education goals in mind? Your job is not to reduce the number of students each yeah, rather, increase the student body. Regardless of whether educational outcomes were being reached

Karen_Giannino37 karma

This one I'm going to answer just from the perspective of Colgate. We have 2900 students, and that won't change. In fact, it's a nightmare if we come in over that because of housing, class sizes, etc.

mikeym116 karma


Karen_Giannino30 karma

Great question. Most important: curriculum. We want students who like a challenge, who love to learn. The best way to show this is by taking the toughest courses your high school offers. Then of course, good grades in those classes. The point is, an A is an easy class is not so impressive. An A in an AP, honors, International Baccalaureate class--that's impressive.

Testing, recommendations, essays--all of these elements start to build a picture of the kind of student you are and will become.

All the other stuff adds to the picture--job (we LOVE it when students work), service, artistic accomplishments, discipline learned from sports, teamwork learned from being part of a club, leadership.

ethos198316 karma


I was born and raised in NYS, and left when i was 18 to join the USAF. After doing my time, i got out and lived in for several months in Louisiana with some friends, re-adjusting to civilian life. While looking at several colleges in NY, I was informed that as i spent several months in Louisiana (and paid taxes there for the time i lived there), I was notified that I was no longer considered a NYS resident, and thus subject to (much higher) out of state tuition rates.

Do you know of any way to get around this/is there any way? According to the individuals i've talked to, I'd have to re-establish my residency, which means putting my college plans on hold for another year.

Thank you for taking the time to do this.

Karen_Giannino36 karma

not sure about the logistics of your residency, but at private colleges (like Colgate) tuition is the same for everyone, regardless of where they live.

MD_NP1213 karma

How does Colgate feel about students who take a gap year before college?

Karen_Giannino23 karma

Colgate certainly doesn't look down on gap years. If it is a year spent for personal growth, such as your time in the AmeriCorps, all the better!

vandyriz12 karma


In Texas we have dual credit programs where students can attend a local community college to take some of their courses (government, economics, etc). Would that look better on a transcript than taking these same classes as AP in their high schools?

Also, how does a school's report card effect a students GPA when comparing students from different cities, regions, etc? How can a parent know which high school to send their child to in the district they live in?

This question goes along with the same as the one before but from a different angle. We have parents and students say that they rather go to a mediocre high school than one with a higher rating because they know that in the lower ranked they will achieve a higher GPA and class rank than one if they attended a higher ranked school.


Karen_Giannino16 karma

Dual credit programs--this is an important question to ask of each college. At Colgate, we ask students if they want to apply as a first-year student or as a transfer student. It's their choice, but we want people to know that it is more competitive to be admitted as a transfer student and we rarely have aid for transfer students. My advice: take an AP if you can.

To learn about your high school, we look at the profile the school sends...ask your guidance counselor to see it.

Player_Uno10 karma

Any advice for someone who is interested in a career in higher education? I want to apply for graduate school to get a master's degree in higher education administration. My hope is to become an admissions counselor or work in student affairs as a orientation coordinator for first year or transfer students.

Karen_Giannino8 karma

go to work in your school's admission office! volunteer--they'll be happy to have you and it will build your resume.

blackjamx510 karma

Hi, as a junior looking at potential liberal arts colleges, I've taken a strong interest at Colgate university after comparing several new york region liberal arts schools. I would like to know what stand out programs exist at Colgate University. Also, can you tell me a little bit about the Arts program there? (I'm particularly interested in Film)

Karen_Giannino15 karma

Great to hear that you are interested in Colgate. Come visit! We have 52 majors, so there are a lot of good ones. The largest majors are the same ones you will hear from most schools--econ, political science, bio, history, English, art history...but it's not size that matters. You want the right fit for you--spend some time on our website and read about the film and media studies program. So many great alums in the field that support this program! Fantastic facilities. The arts at Colgate are well supported!

Laziestredditor8 karma

Hamilton born and raised! How are things going back there? I haven't been back in awhile.

Karen_Giannino14 karma

Snow on the ground!!